You Are Fired!

 In Employee, Legal Advice, Small Business

Hiring and retaining great employees in Utah is becoming challenging. Utah has such low unemployment rates and the state’s job market has become increasingly competitive. Small business owners need to consider the strategies available to hire and keep quality employees.

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When hiring it’s important to make sure that team members have the right tools, training, equipment and skills to do their jobs effectively. Communicating with your employees from the beginning about your expectations and vice versa, will increase their likelihood of being productive and staying with your organization.

However, terminations are a fact of life. No small business owner enjoys firing an employee. Utah is an “at will” state which means that you can terminate an employee at any time, for any legal reason or for no reason, and with or without notice. There’s a sense of freedom that goes along with knowing you run your business in an at-will state, right? Except it’s not that simple, there are reasons for which you cannot fire an employee.

Most employment litigation happens because of some common termination mistakes that could be prevented. Avoiding these mistakes will reduce liability and will assist in protecting your Company against lawsuits.

  • Establish and follow written termination policies. Explain the policies to every employee and make sure each employee acknowledges receipt of them.
  • Setting up a progressive discipline policy helps ensure that the termination is warranted. The idea is that you have considered other options other than termination and you gave the employee the opportunity to correct his or her actions. Consistency is the key with disciplinary actions.
  • Perform an investigation before you terminate. When you have good reason to believe that an employee has violated a rule, policy, or procedure than start investigating.
  • Timeliness is important! Failure to investigate promptly and thoroughly could expose your small business to liability.

It takes knowledge and caution to preserve your ability to terminate safely when you need to. Failure to do so could result in claims against you for wrongful termination, retaliation or discrimination, no matter how frivolous. As an employer, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Have you damaged your own at-will status?
  2. Is your documentation in order?
  3. Do extra risk factors apply?

Consult legal counsel before, not after, the termination. Dana Ball strongly advises small business owners to take steps to assist an employee with particular issues before considering a termination as the only answer. Terminating an employee will disrupt the workplace by causing unease with current staff. It takes time to place an ad, interview potential candidates, perform reference checks, train the new hire while other staff members must carry the workload until the new hire is set to operate in his or her position efficiently. You have made this investment with a new hire so take the time to work with them on any issues that may arise early on. However, after sufficient opportunity to correct behavior is not successful then termination may be the result.

Dana Ball provides timely and affordable (only $100 an hour), legal services to small businesses with less than 50 employees.

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